Random Memory Monday:
Pets are family; I don’t care if you think it’s nuts, but for us, they are. So they’ve always been a consideration in the places we’ve lived, the way furniture is arranged, and the purchasing of vehicles. Face it, when you have a 120 pound Golden Retriever, you might be able to haul them to the vet in the back seat of a Mazda Protégé, but cross country? No.
With just two years left to retirement, the Spouse Thingy got orders moving us from California to Ohio; not too long before those orders popped up we’d traded in a station wagon on a Protégé. It was a four door, so we were able to get Hank the Dog in and out, though he was less than thrilled about it and his arthritic hips hated it. The station wagon had to go, though, because the transmission was on its way out and we just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. We thought we were staying in California for the rest of the Spouse Thingy’s military career, but one dickwad who started playing chess with the nurse anesthetists changed that.
Hank might have been able to ride around town every now and then in the back seat of the Mazda, but it seemed cruel to even think about hauling him 1800 miles in it. So the Boy sold his car, we gave him the Mazda, and we bought a pickup truck. That way Hank had most of the bed of the truck to travel in (harnessed in place in case of accident…) and we would even be able to shove his bed back there.
The problem, we discovered quickly, was that Hank was an older Golden and with his bad hip, he couldn’t just jump into the back of the truck. He could get his front paws on the gate, and one of us could then lift his back end up, but that hurt him. He never whelped or whined, but it was there on his face: this hurts.
We bought a pet ramp, and with a little work, he figured out how to walk up it and get into the truck, and with a little more work he was able to walk down. He needed more help than the average dog even with that—for whatever reason Hank was terrified of stairs and to him this was just a weird staircase—but with reassuring hands on him, he would suck up the fear and brave it.
We also had a pass through window installed between the cab and the bed, and bought a topper, so that Hank was not only protected from the elements while riding back there, but he could also stick his head through the window and be with his people. So off we went, heading to Ohio with a geriatric Golden Retriever who drooled through the pass through window and a pissed off Psychokitty who howled for 6 solid hours the first day.
Somewhere along the way, probably on day two, we stopped at a rest area and unfolded the ramp so that Hank could get out and pee, then stretch his legs and walk for a bit. Across the large parking lot was a guy standing in front of his van, watching. As Hank tentatively made his way down the ramp, the guy started walking towards us; I didn’t think anything about it. For all I knew he was heading for the restroom.
But when he was about five feet from us, he said—almost a little choked up—“Thank you for that.”
We both looked up from Hank.
“I had a dog just like him, and I miss him so much. Thank you for thinking about that ramp for yours. It’s special.”
That was my random thought this morning; I saw a picture online of a trailer-hitch step-up platform for dogs, and I heard that guy’s voice in my head.
We never thought it was special; it’s what you do when a family member needs something. Hank needed help getting in and out of the truck, and that was no different than the Spouse Thingy walking me back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the house six days after I’d had surgery. I needed to move, but I needed help.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem special; it’s just what you do.
Still…I saw that step-up and I could perfectly see Hank carefully inching his way down that ramp in a rest area parking lot, and how some random stranger was reminded of his own long-gone friend, and how to him, it was special.
And right now, I really miss Hank.